Improvements to Bonny Oaks Drive are necessary due to its higher crash rate than the acceptable average and its importance to the area's economic growth, according to a recently released 62-page traffic study by Volkert and Associates for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The study suggests the only viable option is a five-lane road with a continuous turn lane from Bonny Oaks' intersection with Highway 58 to where it meets Interstate 75.
"TDOT recognizes that this project is very important to the city of Chattanooga, Amazon.com, Volkswagen and their associated suppliers," said TDOT community relations manager Jennifer Flynn.
It will not be known until a report is released later this spring whether funding is included in TDOT's next three-year plan. Volkert's independent assessment states Bonny Oaks "needs to be a multi-lane facility by year 2015."
The region's long-range transportation plan has the project scheduled for a 2025 completion date.
"A road-widening project typically takes 12 to 13 years from concept to completion," Flynn said. "If the project is now included in the region's [Transportation Improvement Plan], then it's not inconceivable that it could be complete by 2025."
According to Melissa Taylor, director of transportation planning for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, the project has not yet progressed through this most preliminary of stages.
"Some member agency of the [Transportation Planning Organization] board would need to request we amend our TIP to add that project," she said. "They can request to amend at any time but they have to show a funding source because we have to remain fiscally constrained."
The estimated total project cost is nearly $50 million.
Of the eight intersections included in the traffic study area, three operated at a level C or higher of service during afternoon peak hours without improvements. The closer to a grade of A, the better.
If left unimproved, three intersections will operate at a level F by the year 2015, according to the study. That number is expected to increase to five intersections by the year 2035.
The city of Chattanooga has already begun implementing various projects in the vicinity to help. Volkert noted several in its study, including extending left and right turn lanes at the Bonny Oaks, Hickory Valley intersection and installing a traffic signal at the Enterprise South Boulevard intersection.
Other fixes en route include adding a traffic signal and a turn lane in either direction on Hickory Valley Road at Discovery Drive and widening a two-lane wooden bridge there; widening a two-lane section of Hickory Valley's intersection with Highway 58 into four lanes; providing a dedicated turn lane onto Bonny Oaks from its northbound exit off Highway 153 heading toward Enterprise South; installing two roundabouts at the northbound off-ramps at the Highway 153 and Jersey Pike exit as well as a single roundabout at Jersey Pike's intersection with Oakwood Drive; and improving Jersey Pike at Hancock Road.
In addition, the county has installed left turn lanes at the entrance to Enterprise South Boulevard.
"Intersection improvements have a lot to do with traffic flow," said Taylor. "Even if Bonny Oaks has got some issues, if there were intersections contributing to that there could be some alleviation of some of the pressure [on Bonny Oaks]."